Oct 25th

Opening Speech – “Bodies of Text”

ByCarmelite Priory Mdina | In Art

Bodies of Text

Good evening. It is a pleasure for us to welcome you all at the Carmelite Priory for the inauguration of Gordon Pace Flores’ Bodies of text in this beautifully austere Carmelite cloister. Although I have no intention of repeating what’s written in the brochure, I will start my short reflection by quoting the de-scription:

The intriguing elements composing “Bodies of text” – nakedness, alphabet, sensuous body parts – exhibited in the harmoniously austere cloister enhance the dialogic process of integrating the rudimentary, fragmented and disconnected forms into a meaningful whole. The cloister (from the Latin claustrum), a garden enclosed, as an allegory of the soul-bride who searches for integrity and wholeness through focusing on the Beloved, is conducive to arrive at a meaningful and comprehensive perception of existence.

Many activities take place in the “cloister” which, in the monastic tradition was always a semi-cloistered (=private area reserved for friars). The cloister is a space of encounter, an encounter with the Divine (if you like, Mystery) both in silence and in human relationships. The cloister is a source of life. It gives water and light to the friary. Thus, in many senses, it is a central place, a place of communion. In the cloister, people meditate, receive spiritual direction and confession, experience communion with others in joyful encounters, practice gardening by tending to plants and trees. In the cloister, friars of old even washed their laundry by the well. All of these day to day human activities are forms of re-creation, through which we allow ourselves to be created anew from our existential fragmentation.

In Bodies of text the fragmented body parts, the alphabet letters, are all interconnected as if in a collection of poetry. Each poem, each photo-graph, has a life of its own but it is incomplete. A poem, a photo-graph, a text, is best understood when viewed as part of a larger picture, a larger collection. Each work of art (a poem, a phot-graph, a text) is in fact only a particular facet of the mystery of existence we all struggle to understand. The titles of each work in Bodies of text, indicates that each exhibited fragment is part of a larger whole, a larger picture, a greater mystery. Bodies of text is paradoxical inasmuch as it is simultaneously complete and incomplete.

We believe that whatever the meaning one may give to Bodies of text, it is always a daring move to allow the process of transformative re-creation to take place in us. Bodies of text is a narrative built from fragmented parts, a narrative which entices us to make our own way through the captured body parts and the surrounding text of the alphabet. Here, one truly explores texts as bodies and reads bodies as texts in an attempt to capture meaning and understanding not by assembling the parts into a whole but rather by transcending the “form”. In this sense Bodies of text echoes Origen’s hermeneutic approach to the interpretation of the biblical corpus. We are invited here to delve deeper, to transcending the pictures and texts themselves and behold the underlying spirit of the pictorial and textual corpus we are faced with.

As I was telling Gordon this week while setting up the exhibition, Bodies of text, reminds me of Canova, Rodin and more specifically of Henri Moore’s sculptures. As in Moore’s art, Pace’s forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, suggestive of the female body and/or reclining figures. Here as in Moore’s sculptures, the undulating forms contain hollow spaces, inviting us to find a way in.

Bodies of text is incomplete in it’s completeness. Using Michel de Certeau’s theory, we can say that each image awaits de-scription. We are all invited to silently and contemplatively process into beholding-creating meaning through observation of the parts, recognised in the whole and the whole present in each part. Once we process therein we are compelled to express meaning through de-scriptive textuality, namely, the creation of texts from the alphabetic body of fragments, progressing from contemporary primitivism /tribalism towards a new culture of life.

Charlò Camilleri, O.Carm.
Carmelite Priory Mdina

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